Friday, April 18, 2008

CHARM CITY by Laura Lippman

By Laura Lippman
William Morrow/Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780061210037
Hardback, 308 pages, $19.95
Genre: Mystery

In the second installment of the Tess Monaghan series, Tess, a former newspaper reporter, is working for an attorney while applying for her license as a private investigator. After business tycoon Wink Wynkowski announces he is going to bring pro basketball back to Baltimore, an article about his troubled financial situation appears in the Beacon-Light. The managing editor of the Beacon-Light hires Tess to find out who placed this article in the paper, since it was rejected until sources could be confirmed. But before Tess can fully investigate, Wynkowski is found in his garage, dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is attributed to suicide. When the reporter Tess suspects planted the story is found dead, also ruled as a suicide, Tess becomes convinced the two have been murdered and extends her investigation further to find out who is behind these deaths.

Charm City was initially released as a paperback by Avon Books in 1997, followed by the hardback edition by William Morrow in 2007. As a reviewer who has read and reviewed and enjoyed later books in the Tess Monaghan series, this was a somewhat disappointing read. The plot is slow and laboring, and Tess does not come across as a very likeable person. She seems immature and irritable and at odds with what to do with her life. Tess’s best friend Whitney Talbot is superficial and annoying. Tess’s boyfriend Crow adds much-needed warmth, but the saving grace is Esskay, the greyhound Tess’s uncle adopted, who ends up under Tess’s somewhat negligent, resentful care. As with each book, Lippman’s love for Baltimore shines through via her visual descriptions and narrative.

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